Hard Times in Tofino
by Greg Blanchette, Tofino
I 'ate dis time of year," Foofie said. She took an angry sip of her latte and glared at me as though it were my fault. "Me too," Babs said, also looking. I sighed.
"You see it 'appening right after Labour Day," Foofie said, in her charming accent. "All da college girls goes back to school and suddenly da guys in town are like deer in the headlights: 'Huh? What happen?' Dere summer sex is gone, the days gets short and dey start to panic. Suddenly dey realize it's going to be a long winter, so dey get all friendly again with da local girls. As though we been sleeping under a log all summer."
Foof growled. She is, to put it gently, cute but plump -- very plump, and hardly the textbook picture of desirable young womanhood our charming culture paints. With that Gallic attitude, though, I bet she'd be holy dynamite in bed. If I were 20 years younger I'd sure be swimming for her stream.
Babs crossed her legs demonstratively, which is something to see. "Take me, for example," she said. "Zip, nada, no sex all summer, and now all of a sudden I got more dates 'n I know what to do with. Well, two, anyhow. And both of them positively gushing with tenderness and unperishable love. How can I respect guys like that?"
"But what choice do you 'ave?" Foof said. "It's not like dere's an overstock of guys in town -- at least guys you might want to coucher avec." There was a pause around the table. We knew we were all facing the same stark fact: The coast is an exceedingly dark and lonely place to spend the winter when you're single.
I broke my big news. Ladies, I said, this very week, almost as we speak, I have been placing the moves on a woman in town. We click like crazy on the phone, but do you think we can manage to get an inch beyond that? It's like Mission: Impossible for us to get together in person.
Usually we just end up leaving each other messages. I call, she's working. She calls back, I'm on the Internet. If on some rare occasion we do connect, we plan something, then she suddenly has to go out of town. Or some unmissable meeting crops up for me. The entire courtship to this point consists of one awkward coffee date and half a dozen saved messages on voice mail that I listen to over and over. This is what passes for a relationship in my life.
"Oh, re-e-eally?" Babs said. She's at that ripe, 30-something age where women are said to reach their prime, and she oozes a sexual confidence that both impresses and scares me. It'd be like jumping into bed with two ocelots. "And, pray tell, who is this paragon?"
I sipped my steamed soy milk mysteriously. I don't want to jinx it, I mumbled.
"Why the big secret?" Babs said. "Two people attracted to each other... that's beautiful. It's the dance of love. Maybe we can help you out. Besides," she added sarcastically, "you know we're going to find out, small town and all."
I mentioned the woman's name, and Babs' eyebrows arched up. "Interesting," she said.
I shrugged. It's like Foofie pointed out, I said -- not a big pool, you take what you can get. Look, you two are charming and pleasant. You know everybody in town from working at the bakery. Plus you're women, for gosh sake. You bond with people automatically, it's in your genes. Me, I'm moody and difficult. Even I wouldn't advise a woman to get involved with me. Guys don't have it so easy.
They all but jumped on me. Foofie said. "You t'ink I 'ave it easy?"
Sure, I said. You're in your 20s. What have you got to do in life but try out new things? Pick up anything or anyone that looks the slightest bit intriguing, just to see if you like it. By the time you hit 40, though, you know what you like. You've established a life. You've got a taste in music, foods you like, activities that satisfy you. You've made up a routine and it suits you. You're a mature person.
But so is your prospective girlfriend -- except all her preferences have nothing to do with yours. Trying to engage two lives like that... in your 20s it's as simple as clasping another hand, fingers intertwined. By age 40 it's like trying to mesh two combs -- two custom-designed combs with a thousand teeth each. Impossible!"
Foofie, the militant romantic, muttered darkly in French.
"Mm, there is something to what he says," mused Barb, pursing her lips. "A certain twisted, clueless guy-logic."
I rolled my eyes. I'm doing what I can, I said. I just don't want to end up caving in on myself again.
"I know what you mean there," Babs said. "You stop answering the phone; eventually it stops ringing; you end up hardly leaving the house for weeks on end. I never want to go through another winter like last year. It's too hard."
And yet, I said, how many people have awful, lonely winters, even in a tiny town like Tofino? Dozens, probably.
"It doesn't make sense," said Babs. "How many lonely people can there be in a one-horse town like this? In any kind of sensible world there wouldn't be more than one. If there were two, they'd find each other."
"'Un-dreds," said Foofie, deliberately exaggerating her accent. "'Undreds of people, craving human contact. It's so sad."
"What this town needs
is a matchmaker," Babs said. "Or an Orphan's Club. Somewhere for single people to go and be with other people."
"Oh, yah," Foofie said. "We could call it the Pat'etic Losers Club. Who'd join somet'ing like dat? You might as well just go to da bar and pick someone up."
It's not about sex, I said, it's about companionship. It's about having someone to talk to on those endless winter evenings.
"Balls. It's the sex," growled Babs, and I bumped my estimate to three ocelots. "Just kidding!" she said. "But it's true, you know: In Tofino come winter it's all about the cord of wood, the warm body and the cable connection. And let's face it, none of us are scoring three out of three. I can't even get any dry wood delivered."
Eric began closing down the counter. The cafe was empty, our lattes done, the sun had deserted the sky. Traffic on the street had dwindled to nothing, and the rains of Noah looked to be starting up. Before us in the twilight loomed three empty apartments, each surrounded (it seemed) by the shacked-up clinging hard to each other, and by the married growing increasingly smug with every passing month.
We stood. I held the door for the girls, who dashed to their cars and drove away. I pulled up my collar and started a quick slog up the hill. It's a hard time of year, I thought. Let's be good to ourselves and each other.
Greg Blanchette is a reluctant bachelor pushing 50, who dearly hopes we can all just get along. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.